The province has released the 2022-23 budget, outlining the NDP’s spending priorities for B.C. Though the budget is largely business as usual, there are some key takeaways to focus on.
1. Deficits in the years ahead
This year’s deficit is projected to be $483 million, a dramatic reduction from the projected $9 billion back in the spring. But as B.C. rebuilds from devastating wildfires and floods, deficits will rise in the coming years. The three-year budget projects a deficit of $5.5 billion for 2022-23 and $3.2 billion for 2023-24.
2. B.C. Wildfire service will work year-round
The province will spend nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to support wildfire and emergency management over the next three years. The budget devotes $243 million to expand capacity for wildfire and other emergency management responses, $400 million to Emergency Management B.C., $98 million to fund wildfire prevention work and $218 million to support the community FireSmart program, the community emergency preparedness fund and community-level work to improve dikes, floodplain mapping and other risk-reduction activities that are currently left to local governments.
3. Youth in care to receive more support
The province announced that youth who age out of the foster care system will now receive a $600 monthly rent supplement until age 27. Supports for youth in care previously ended at age 19, leading to high levels of homelessness.
4. Childcare fees dropping to $20-a-day
B.C. anticipates 40,000 new childcare spaces to open in the next seven years. While B.C. eagerly signed an agreement with the federal government to bring in $10-a-day childcare, the province has only committed to the $20-a-day figure for the next few years.
5. First community hubs for neurodiverse children coming to B.C.
The province is taking steps to introduce their new ‘needs-based’ community hub funding model for children with autism and intellectual disabilities. The first hubs will be opened in the Okanagan and Northwestern B.C. The program has come under intense criticism from the autism community, who say the hubs put their existing levels of support at risk.
6. New Ministry of Lands, Water and Resource Stewardship created
The new Ministry of Lands, Water and Resource Stewardship will be formed with $44 million in funding. The ministry aims to work with Indigenous governments to develop a new vision and new policies for land, water and resource management to bring the government’s natural resource policy framework in line with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
7. Capital spending on infrastructure, schools, hospitals
New investments in schools, hospitals, universities, affordable housing, highways, bridges and rapid transit will make up a bulk of B.C.’s capital expenditures, totalling $27.4 billion over the course of the fiscal plan.
8. Increased funding to CleanBC
CleanBC will receive more than $1 billion in new funding, building on the $2.3 billion previously allocated. That funding will go toward expanding the low carbon fuel standard, PST exemptions on zero-emissions vehicles, grants for local governments to improve transportation infrastructure among other measures.
9. Supports for survivors of sexual assault
The province will provide stable funding for approximately 50 community-based sexual assault response organizations to support survivors of sexual and gender-based violence across B.C.
10. More funding for health and mental health services
Budget 2022 will invest $3.2 billion in additional funds to improve health and mental health services. The funding will go toward creating 15 new First Nations primary care centres, a $303 million base budget for diagnostic imaging and improving wages, working conditions and job security for thousands of health-care support service workers.